Introducing From the Makers
Today, we’re debuting “From the Makers”, a periodic feature to give you a peek inside MakerBot, to introduce you to the people who create our products and services, and to let you know how we’re doing with our plans, challenges, and progress.
First up is the Digital Products team, represented by Joey Neal, VP. Joey talks with us about the evolution of MakerBot software and apps, and their important position in the growing MakerBot 3D Ecosystem.
Coming soon: From the Makers posts that focus on how we conceive of and design our hardware, including the MakerBot Replicator Smart Extruder, MakerBot Innovation Centers, and more.
We’re eager to hear what you think about From the Makers. So please send us your feedback and suggestions, via email to [email protected].
MakerBot Apps: A Progress Report
Back in October, we told you about our software release plans for the remainder of the year. Since then, we’ve
–Released new features and print quality improvements in MakerBot Desktop 3 and 3.4;
–Introduced Print History to provide a way to reprint your favorite designs as quickly as possible;
–Released MakerBot Mobile 1.1 (now for iPad too); and
–Added a Vase Maker tool to MakerBot PrintShop.
We’re also working on launching MakerBot Mobile for Android, a new Medal Maker tool for MakerBot PrintShop, an auto-update feature for MakerBot Desktop, and should soon have some news for you about MakerBot-Ready Apps.
Now, as our Digital Products team puts some finishing touches on MakerBot Desktop 3.5, it seems like a good time to kick off From the Makers with a chat with Joey Neal, VP of Digital Products. He tells us about the Digital Products team: who they are, what they do, and how digital products have evolved, and continue to evolve, here at MakerBot.
It Began With MakerBot MakerWare
If you only think of desktop 3D printers when you hear “MakerBot,” you might be surprised that software has always been an essential part of the MakerBot 3D printing experience. From the company’s earliest beginnings in 2009, we knew that an 3D printing app like MakerBot MakerWare would get makers excited and help make desktop 3D printing easier
So, from the get-go, we made sure that free MakerBot MakerWare, would work with industry-standard .STL and .OBJ files output from almost any customer’s favorite 3D modeling software.
This also means that MakerBot MakerWare users could print many, if not most, of the files shared in the large Thingiverse 3D design community.
[Fun fact: MakerBot Thingiverse, actually predates MakerBot, the company. Thingiverse, which Joey describes as an “amazing source of inspiration”, also has a dedicated iOS and Android app.]
Networked 3D Printers Open Up Software Possibilities
As popular as MakerWare was, when the hardware, engineering, and software teams sat down in 2013 to review customer wish-lists, and to sketch out a vision for our latest generation of MakerBot Replicator 3D printers (networked and running on a common MakerBot OS), they soon realized the Digital Products team should create the app we now call MakerBot Desktop.
MakerBot Desktop: MakerWare and a Whole Lot More
During design, the Digital Products team made sure to keep their ears to the ground, listening closely to our customers. So they made MakerBot Desktop backwards compatible “with ALL of our printers” and, like MakerBot MakerWare before it, free MakerBot Desktop works with .STL and .OBJ files.
But that’s not all. MakerBot Desktop incorporates great print preparation features of MakerBot MakerWare, and adds to them by including access to a personal MakerBot Cloud Library, the ability to explore MakerBot Thingiverse and to shop the MakerBot Digital Store, and even access to your print history. In short, Joey says, the idea is to have MakerBot Desktop “work with all the products in our ecosystem” as that ecosystem continuously evolves.
MakerBot Mobile: Walk Away From Your Desk
MakerBot Mobile 1.1, with a new layout design for the iPad, makes browsing Thingiverse an even better experience.
And, if you’ve updated your printer with the latest firmware (v1.5), you can now start a print remotely from your iPad or iPhone from anywhere within range of your MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer’s Wi-Fi network. Thanks to the onboard cameras you can also see your build plate to make sure it’s clear before you start printing remotely.
But Joey and his team have even more ideas up their sleeves: “We’ve made it really easy for you to print stuff, but maybe you want to scale something or put two items on a plate. So we will be investigating having a Prepare mode similar to MakerBot Desktop.
The team is also working on true, remote monitoring that will work over a cellphone network as well as over your local Wi-Fi network. With this upcoming feature, Joey says, the idea is to be able to check the phone from anywhere and, “…find something that’s cool on Thingiverse that’s new, or from my library, take a look at the onboard camera on my printer, and start a print.”
MakerBot PrintShop: Making 3D Design Easier
The Digital Products team is also as pleased as punch with MakerBot PrintShop, an iPad app, optimized for fifth-generation MakerBot Replicator printers. You can use it to print directly to the printer without having to go to MakerBot Desktop first.
Joey says PrintShop takes all the guesswork out of print preparation, not to mention the technical-sounding jargon, and, “We make it really easy for users to create their own content without having to know 3D design skills.”
PrintShop is ideal for people just starting out with 3D printing or who love to 3D print but are in learning mode with 3D design software. “We give them the power to make some of their own, custom 3D models that are really easy to use like Vase Maker, or [the upcoming] Medal Maker, or jewelry like bracelets and rings.”
On top of that, the team worked with Sanrio, a MakerBot partner, to create special-edition, 3D printable ring toppers for the Hello Kitty conference this year. They’re looking forward to similar partnerships in the future.
What’s Coming Down the Pike
Lots. The Digital Product team has a master calendar, of course, and it includes things like:
–MakerBot Desktop auto-update
–Mobile remote printing
Joey and team are also working on the MakerBot Innovation Center Management Platform, a software solution that enables people to manage large groups of MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers effectively and efficiently.
That’s what on the calendar. But, as Joey points out, “from time to time, we also hear things from the field” the team knows they have to take a look at.
A good example of this is Z-Axis Offset. “We noticed that folks needed a little bit more variable control” to help them adjust their build plate, relative to their printer’s MakerBot Replicator Smart Extruder. So the team quickly crafted a solution and added it to the latest MakerBot Desktop release.
Keep Your Firmware Up-to-date
Whenever anyone on the Digital Products team talks about new features offered by any of the apps, they’re quick to remind us to “update your firmware.”
No wonder. As Joey tells us, “One of the interesting things about when we release our software, like MakerBot Desktop, is that most of the time there’s also some firmware updates that go in tandem with the features.”
So it’s important to always update your 3D printer’s firmware to enable those new features — and all the capabilities they offer.
Tell Us What You Think
We’re always interested in your feedback, thoughts, and suggestions, so feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].